The incident is detailed in an article by William Finnegan in the July 20 issue of The New Yorker, which examines Arpaio's record during his four-plus terms as sheriff. The story focuses on conditions in county jails and Arpaio's immigration policies.
Finnegan visited the Valley this spring to research the article. While riding along with the sheriff one day, he writes, "someone named Jim, who sounded like a deputy, called from the courthouse."
Arpaio put the call on speaker phone, Finnegan writes, and Jim "said he was observing jury selection in a case there."
After one prospective juror told the judge that Arpaio was her hero, the caller reportedly said, "So the next lady says, 'Joe is not my hero.' Then she says she's the wife of the mayor of Mesa."
According to the article, Arpaio responded, "I knew it! I never trusted that mayor. He's pro-immigrant. He's never going to fire that chief. We gotta raid Mesa again."
The "chief" is George Gascón, who has publicly differed with Arpaio over immigration policy and is leaving Mesa to become police chief in San Francisco.
A sheriff's spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Mayor Scott Smith said his wife, Kim, was not bragging in the courtroom about being married to him, but merely answering questions from the judge about her family and background.
He added that the hero comment reflected the fact that "We don't throw the term 'hero' around lightly." He said his wife meant no disparagement to the sheriff by not putting him in that category.
He said she made the comments when she was called for federal jury duty this spring.
"It was a human smuggling type case," Smith said. "They were asking detailed questions about feelings about all sorts of things relating to immigration."
Jurors also were asked, Smith said, about their opinions of the sheriff.
One female panel member did say Arpaio was her hero, Smith said. "My wife was the very next person they talked to."
Arpaio has sent his officers into Mesa several times over the past year and a half. Last year he raided a Mesa landscaping company, a water park in the city and conducted a highly publicized "crime suppression" sweep there in June.
In October, sheriff's officers raided City Hall, the main library and a municipal security office, seeking illegal immigrants believed to be involved in identity theft. Smith angrily denounced the raid, which was conducted after midnight without prior notification to the city.
A few days later Smith and Arpaio met to discuss the raid, and Arpaio promised the city would be told beforehand of future actions within its borders.
Smith said Arpaio's reaction to his wife's comment illustrates the near impossibility of having reasonable conversations about immigration policy.
"You cannot have a rational discussion and have people who agree on results and objectives but disagree on tactics," Smith said. "That's unfair. Because that means we'll never get to a real solution."
He added, "If Joe Arpaio is so thin-skinned that he's upset over what the wife of the mayor Mesa says in an honest answer to a federal judge in a federal courtroom, you gotta laugh about it."
As for his wife, Smith said, "I'm proud of her for telling the truth. She was asked a question by a judge and she told the truth."
In the end, she was not seated on the jury.